« PreviousContinue »
Astolfo. Estrellu. Astolfo. Estrella. Astolfo. Estrella. Astolfo. Estrella. Astolfo. Basilio.
Art now residing-
And all their paths-
And all their lucid tracks-
Let me clasp thee in all humility-
Oh, let with the tenderest embrace-
And be the ivy to this aged trunk,
Enfold thy knees, while thou regardest me.
Beloved children, hasten to my arms.
Believe me, since you have been thus compliant,
And shown such kind obedience to my will,
I can complain of neither-both are equal.
Now, when I own I feel the weight of years,
I only ask your silence. Thou wilt find
Th' events I shall reveal are passing strange.
List to me, therefore, my beloved kinsmen ;
List to me, thou illustrious Court of Poland,
My vassals and my subjects.
Well ye know
That from the world by science I have gained
The name of " learned," that against oblivion
Timanthes' pencil and Lysippus' marble
Proclaim the great Basilio to the world.
Ye know the science that I follow most
Is subtle mathematics, robbing time
And rumour of their charge and privilege,
Which is to teach us daily something more ;
For when my tables tell me the events
Of future ages, I have robb'd from time
The mighty priv'lege of recording them.*
Those spheres of snow, those glassy canopies,
Which ihe sun's rays illumine, which the moon
Divides as it revolves—those diamond orbs,
Those globes of crystal which the stars adorn-
Those fields through which the constellations roam-
Those are the greatest study of my life.
The books in which, upon a diamond page,
On sapphire sheets, is written down by Heav'n
The lot of all in characters distinct,
Whether it be adverse or fortunate.
These can I read so swiftly, that my soul
Follows their rapid movements, and their course.
Yet would to Heav'n, ere that my mind had been
The commentator of its spacious margin, The register of all its leaves-my life Had fallen the first victim of its wrath, And that my tragedy were written-there! Th' unfortunate in his own merit finds A knife ; and he who is condemned by knowledge Becomes his own destroyer. This I tell you, And this my fortunes will more plainly tellTo list to which I once more crave your silence. My late wife Clorilena had a son Doomed to misfortune. At his birth the heav'ns Seemed to exhaust themselves of prodigies. Before a living tomb gave him to lightI inean the womb (alike are life and death)Oft in her dreams his mother saw a monster Shaped like a man, who started from her entrails, And, stained with blood, slew her who gave him birth, Being a human viper. Soon arrived The day of birth, and all the presages Were then fulfilled. Seldom or never false Are found ill omens. Mark the horoscope Of his sad birth. The sun, of sanguine hue, Engaged in savage combat with the moon ; Divided by the earth, the lamps divine Contested for thi' entirety of light. There never was such an eclipse as this Since the sun mourned the death of Christ with blood. The earth, o'erflowed with living fires, believed That her last hour was come; the heav'ns were dark, The buildings trembled, and the clouds rained stones, The rivers flowed with gore. Well, 'mid this frenzy, 'Mid all this wild delirium of the sun, My Sigismund was born, and gave at once Proof of his temper, for he slew his mother ; Saying by that fierce act, “I am a man, Learning thus early to give ill for good." Again I had recourse to my deep studies ; And then I learned my Sigismund would be A man most reckless, a most cruel prince, An impious monarch ;—that by bim this land Would be divided, rent apart by faction, And be a school for treason and for vice. I also learned, that he, urged on by rage, Would set his foot on me-I speak with shame!Using my grey locks as they were a carpet. We credit evil; most of all the ill We learn by our own study, for self-love Then helps us to our credence. Thus did I Believe the fates who such dire ills foretold, Resolving to incarcerate the monster Then newly born, and learn if a wise man
Might not obtain dominion o'er the stars.
The rumour went the infant was born dead,
And I had caused a tower to be built
Among the rugged breaks of these steep mountains,
Where light has hardly found a path as yet,
So well rude obelisks defend the entrance.
This was the reason of those heavy laws
And penalties severe, forbidding all
To enter certain precincts in these hills.
There Sigismund lives captive-wretched-poor;
None but Clotaldo has discoursed with him ;
And he-sole witness of his miseries-
Has taught him science and our holy faith.
Now, here we must consider of three points,-
First, Poland, I so love thee, I would free thee
From the oppression of a tyrant's sway,
Since I should be a monarch most unkind
Placing my land and kingdom in such peril.
Secondly, if I take away the rights
Which laws from God and man have given my son,
It is a deed unchristian, for no law
Will suffer me to make myself a tyrant
That I may save you from my tyrant son--
Committing crimes, that he may not commit them.
Thirdly, 'tis wrong to give too easy credit
To things foreseen ; for though his inclinations
Would hurl him to destruction, still perchance
He may prove victor. The most adverse fate,
The wildest temp'rament, most impious star,
Can but incline the will, they cannot force it.
Thus oscillating 'mid these different points,
I have devised such remedy at last
That you will marvel. My son Sigismund,
(So is he named) to-morrow I will place
Beneath my canopy, upon my throne-
But that he is my son he shall not know.
Then shall he govern and command you all,
While you unite in vowing him obedience.
By acting thus, three ends I shall attain,
Answering to those three points I laid before you.
First, if he prove benignant, prudent, wise,
Belying all that fate has told of him,
Then will you have your natural prince, so long
A courtier of the rocks, a friend of brutes,
Secondly, if he prove audacious, cruel,
Rushing through paths of vice with loosened rein,
Then ev'ry duty I shall have fulfilled,
And in deposing him I shall but act
As a free monarch ; it will be but just,
Not cruel, to return him to his dungeon.
Thirdly, if Sigismund should prove a prince,
Such as I have described, then, as I love you,
I'll give you kings worthy your crown and sceptre.
My niece and nephew having joined their claims,
United by the holy marriage tie,
Shall then receive the kingdom they deserve.
This, as your king, I would demand of you ;
This, as your father, I would ask of you ;
This, as a wise man, I would counsel you ;
This, as an old man, I would urge on you ;-
And as the Spaniard Seneca * has said
The king is but the slave of his republic-
Then, as your slave, this do I beg of you.
Astolfo. If 'tis my place to answer, being he
Who is most interested in this matter,
Speaking for all, I ask for Sigismund, -
It is sufficient that he is thy son.
All. Give us our prince, for he shall be our king.
Basilio. Subjects, I thank you for this courtesy.
To-morrow you shall see him. Now attend
These pillars of my throne to their apartments. Ali. . Long live the great Basilio.
[Exeunt Astolfo and EstRELLA, followed by
all except the King.
Enter Clotaldo with Rosaura and Clarin.
Clotaldo. May I address thee?
O Clotaldo, welcome.
Clotaldo. Though, coming to thy feet I should be so,
This time, my lord, a sad and adverse fate
Has barred the privilege of law and custom.
Basilio. What is it?
A misfortune, good my lord,
Which reached me in such guise I could have thought it
My greatest joy.
This lovely youth
Entered the tower, being bold or careless,
And there he saw the prince. He is—
Grieve not, Clotaldo! On another day
I own it would have moved me. As it is,
The secret is revealed, and 'tis no matter
What this young man may know; I have told all.
Come presently, for I have much to say,
And there is much that thou must do for me.
I assure thee thou wilt be the instrument
Of the most wondrous act the world e'er saw,
As for these captives, that thou mayst not think
I punish thy neglect, I pardon them.
Live for a thousand ages, mighty king!
Heav'n has improved my fate! I will not say
This is my son, I can avoid it now.
You are free, strangers.
Oh, a thousand times
I kiss thy feet.* Thou givest me life, my lord-
For thy account live, and I will be
Eternally thy slave.
It is not life
That I have given thee. One nobly born
Lives not if he's insulted.-If thou com'st
To avenge an insult, as thou toldest me,
Thou hast no life, and I have given thee none-
A life of infamy is none at all.
Sure this will move him. (Aside.)
Well, then, I confess
I have no life, although thou gav'st me one.
Yet shall revenge so purify my honour,
That when I've trampled on the greatest perils,
My life may seem thy gift.
Take this bright sword
Which thou hast worn, -I know it will suffice,
Tinged with thy foeman's blood, for thy revenge.
This was my sword—that is, I call it so,
Because I've borne it now;—this will avenge thee.
I gird it in thy name a second time,
And on it swear revenge against my foe,
Although he be the stronger.
Is he so?
So much so, that I may not tell his name,
Not that I would not trust more to thy prudence,
But lest thy favour tow'rd me should be changed.
Nay, didst thou tell, thou rather wouldst secure me,
Since then I could not aid thine
Oh did I know him! (Aside.)
That thou mayst not think
That lightly I esteem this confidence,
Know that my adversary is no less
Than Astolf, Duke of Muscovy.